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Local charter schools accused of illegal enrollment policies

The American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California are accusing two charter schools in Santa Barbara of exclusionary and illegal enrollment policies.

ACLU posted a list of 253 charter schools in violation six days ago. (

“Unfortunately, we think the 253 schools we found are just the tip of the iceberg of on the ground discriminatory enrollment practices,” said Rigel Massaro, a Public Advocates attorney.

ACLU claims Santa Barbara Charter of asking students to turn in pre-enrollment essays or interviews in order to go to the school. The schools’ director of education has been working there for 21 years. She wants to know where the ACLU got its information.

“We have a lottery-based system in fact for our enrollment. We’ve never had any sort of test or essay or enrollment requirements other than parents having to fill out a form letting us know that they want to attend,” said Laura Donner, Santa Barbara Charter School’s director of education.

ACLU claims Peabody Charter of requiring parents and guardians to volunteer.

“They informed us that it was from an old document about parent participation and about requiring parent participation. We had already updated that information to really encourage and invite parents to participate than require them,” said Demian Barnett, Peabody Charter School principal.

A grandmother of a first grader at Peabody told us she has never been forced to volunteer.

“I feel that I can come out here for the children, at least for a little bit. That helps me too,” said Melinda Cunningham, school volunteer.

Peabody’s principal says volunteering is no longer a requirement, but defends parent participation saying it enriches the learning environment.

“Parent participation is still very strong today and it’s one of the reasons that Peabody is the school that it is,” said Barnett.

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